Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama

Golf betting tips: Ben Coley's specials best bets for the PGA Championship

Golf expert Ben Coley goes through the various specials markets ahead of the PGA Championship, which gets under way on Thursday.

Golf betting tips: PGA Championship specials

5pts Hideki Matsuyama top Japanese & Joaquin Niemann top South American at 2/1 (Sky Bet)

1pt treble Matsuyama, Niemann & Padraig Harrington top senior at 8/1 (Sky Bet)

1pt double Corey Conners top 20 & Keegan Bradley top 30 at 13/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Specials, side-markets, props... whatever you call them, these are often the best territory for finding value in a major championship. The difficulty in recommending them is that not every firm prices up everything, and some differ in the way they allow and even settle bets.

As such, while the staking plan above represents Plan A, the selections and analysis below hopefully give you enough to go at regardless of where you choose, or are able, to bet. If nothing else, the general even-money about the first pick is considered outstanding value.

Top Japanese player

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA hasn't been seen since he was a popular 22/1 shot for the Masters and backers must always accept that he comes with a health warning, hence last week's late withdrawal from the Wells Fargo.

But that was reportedly due to tightness in his back, precautionary rather than alarming, and we are more than compensated by even-money that he's the pick of four Japanese players this week. Granted a clean bill of health he'd be long odds-on.

Matsuyama has not missed a cut in a US major since 2016. Throughout this period he's dealt with back and neck problems, yet come the biggest events, he's never failed to deliver. This is a run of 23 events and in 22 of them, he's cracked the top 40. More than half the time he's managed a top-20 finish.

His rivals here include promising pair Keita Nakajima and Takumi Kanaya and the former has a particularly bright future. Still, he's missed the cut in all four majors so far and this is a world away from the DP World Tour events in which he's played so well of late.

Kanaya, a short hitter who is bound to find this a slog, has eight missed cuts in nine majors, the other a share of 58th. Ryo Hisatsune, enjoying a good first go at the PGA Tour, missed the cut on his major debut in the Masters. Between the four, that's 13 missed cuts in 14.

If Matsuyama extends his run of cuts made to 24, which is a best of 4/9 and as short as 3/10 in places, he'll probably land this bet at even-money. He could miss the cut and win, too, and at the prices I'm compelled to risk his health. Matsuyama has generally found a way and he's far more likely than 50-50 to beat three compatriots one way or another.


Top South American player

Outright selection JOAQUIN NIEMANN has everything in his favour and is value at upwards of 1/2, so I'll advise a double with Matsuyama. Note that some firms, for absolutely no good reason, will only allow singles on these unrelated markets (*post-publication, Paddy Power adjusted their markets to allow for multiples), in which case a healthy bet on Matsuyama may have to do.

For those who can, doubling him with Niemann ought to pay off. Niemann is by far the best among four South Americans and the biggest threat on paper, Emiliano Grillo, still a significantly inferior player, is badly out of form. His long-game has been off for a while and the putter is never likely to make up for it.

Hotheaded Alejandro Tosti has one good form-line to his name, second place in Houston, where he could thrash driver and not worry about waywardness given those wide fairways. His power is a plus and might see him compete with Grillo around here, but he was 63rd in an opposite field last week and may not have the game nor the temperament for this.

Camilo Villegas has already accepted a non-playing Presidents Cup role despite winning in November. That tells you how little he's done since and it took a dynamite short-game display to make the cut at the Masters. His ball-striking isn't pretty and he'll be badly exposed off the tee, leaving the way clear for Niemann to land this comfortably if he avoids disaster over the first two days.

Top senior

Last year, we were on PADRAIG HARRINGTON at around 2/1 and he's worth a small bet at the same odds in what is a weaker field, because there's no Steven Alker this time.

Once more, Harrington should only have Phil Mickelson to beat and, once more, DataGolf rate the Irishman a slightly better player. I tend to agree with that assessment and his warm-up, contending for a senior major championship as he did last week, should have him ready to have a good go at making the cut.

Y.E. Yang is just 9/2 yet he's not made the cut in this since 2015 while Shaun Micheel, at 12/1, can only win due to the failings of others. He shot 81-82 last year, the second time in his last three PGA Championship appearances that he's failed to crack 80 in either of his two rounds.

Rich Beem and John Daly complete the six and this is surely a match between Mickelson and Harrington. The former does have a stronger course record to call upon and played a bit better last time, but Harrington leads the major head-to-head 6-2 since 2019 and it's 4-0 over the last couple of years.

Around this course, I can't split them. Had Mickelson been 2/1 he'd therefore have been given the vote, but at that price it goes to Harrington instead. And if you're especially keen to oppose the 2021 champion, backing both Robert MacIntyre and Akshay Bhatia in the top left-hander market makes some sense, with short-hitting Brian Harman not at his best.

Bhatia won here as an amateur and is the pick of the four but MacIntyre might just love the course, too.

Top finishes

Alex Smalley and Kurt Kitayama both made some appeal here but the one I like most is COREY CONNERS, who is among the most reliable golfers on the PGA Tour and can bag a top-20 finish.

Conners' long-game was first class last week. At a similar golf course, he produced his best approach-play stats since winning in Texas last April and was as good as he's been off the tee since February, only a poor short-game keeping him from contending.

That's the way with him but the thick rough around these rain-softened greens might help and he contended under similar conditions at Oak Hill last year. Together with three Masters top-10s, a strong record at Bay Hill and a top-20 at Muirfield Village, plus 10th at Olympia Fields, he has lots of potentially correlating form.

As for this particular market, he's operating at about 37% in majors since 2020, which is almost exactly where he's been over his last 50 starts. Over 100 he's over 40%, so the general 5/2-11/4, with one firm offering 3/1, looks to give us a decent edge.

Corey Conners
Corey Conners

I've talked myself out of a bet on KEEGAN BRADLEY to be top former winner but he was of some interest in that market. There are only five players ahead of him and Bradley, at 25/1, would need to beat three of them to land the place money given that those below aren't expected to be any kind of factor.

He's been priced up alongside Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, for my money unfairly, and with his irons firing I can see Bradley finishing inside the top 30 or so. The trouble is, the betting is headed by Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka and beating both will probably be beyond him. Playing for that place money comes with limited upside all things considered.

As such I'll take the option of a top 30, offered by several firms. Paddy Power and Betfair have the double with Conners (top 20) at 13/1 which is worth a small bet. If you're unable to access it, Conners is 3/1 with bet365 for a top 20 is the best bet of the lot, with the same price available on Bradley for a top 30 in places, or 15/8 for a top 40.

Posted at 1400 BST on 14/05/24

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